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AMD chases Intel ultrabooks with Trinity laptop-tablet hyrid

With Trinity, AMD hopes to undercut Intel's touchscreen ultrabooks on price

Advanced Micro Devices showed off a Windows 8 tablet-laptop hybrid running on the company's A-series chips code-named Trinity, taking direct aim at Intel's effort to chase touchscreen ultrabooks running on Ivy Bridge processors.

The prototype device shown at the AMD press conference had a detachable touchscreen that could be used as a tablet when undocked from the laptop. This is a new form factor that AMD is targeting with the Trinity chips, said Lisa Su, senior vice president at AMD, during a company press conference at the Computex trade show in Taipei.

The hybrid device was a prototype made by Compal and was displayed on stage at the AMD press conference. AMD's A-series chips, which were announced in May, are aimed at thin-and-light laptops starting at US$599 and compete with Intel's chips used in ultrabooks, which roughly start at $750.

Tablet-laptop hybrids have appeared at the Computex trade show this year, with Asus and Acer showing off Windows 8 laptops with detachable touchscreens based on Intel's Core processors code-named Ivy Bridge. No PC maker has yet announced a tablet-laptop hybrid based on AMD's Trinity chips, but Su said the company is working with device makers to address new form factors.

The Compal prototype shows AMD's desire to keep up the competition with Intel, which has said that 30 touchscreen ultrabooks with Ivy Bridge processors would be released by the end of the year. AMD historically has had a price advantage over Intel, and new lower-priced touchscreen hybrids with AMD's Trinity could upset Intel's Ivy Bridge momentum.

Customers can potentially take the Compal reference design and offer touch tablet-laptop hybrids with AMD's Trinity chips at a lower price than similar Intel's Ivy Bridge designs, said an AMD spokesman after the press conference. AMD has a price advantage and its chip packages are typically less expensive than comparable chips from Intel.

A possible use for the prototype Compal model is gaming, as AMD's on-chip graphics performance is superior than the graphics on Ivy Bridge, the spokesman said.

AMD has already said it will release low-power tablet chips code-named Hondo later this year. Targeting Trinity chips at touchscreen laptops provides AMD a wider opportunity to expand its presence in the fast-growing tablet market.

Laptops with Trinity chips will offer up to 10 hours of battery life. The chips will go into laptops up to 22 millimeters thick, just a hair over the 21-mm maximum set by Intel for ultrabooks. The chip comes with up to four CPU cores and replaces the current A-series line of processors code-named Llano. AMD has improved the CPU, which is 25 percent faster than its predecessor, and also the graphics core, which is 50 percent faster. Trinity chips draw 17 watts of power, similar to Intel's Ivy Bridge processors for ultrabooks.

AMD is also claiming the performance crown in low-power laptops with the new E-series chips, which was introduced by the company on Wednesday at Computex.

The new chips, dubbed by the company as Brazos 2.0, are designed for low-power laptops such as netbooks, and provide better performance and longer battery life of up to 11 hours on laptops.

The new chips provides better performance-per-watt than the earlier E-series chips on active usage or while watching movies, Su said.

The E-series chip also outperforms competitive chips such as Intel, Su said. In a chart, AMD illustrated that the E-series chips outperform Intel's chips such as the Celeron B940, which is based on the Sandy Bridge microarchitecture and used in low-end laptops.

The E-series chip have integrated graphics that are capable of 3D graphics and DirectX 11, which is the core graphics driver in Windows 7 and the upcoming Windows 8. An integrated Radeon 7000 graphics core can accelerate video, and also general applications like Winzip to uncompress files.

The new E2-1200 and E2-1800 are based on a new processor core. The new chips draw 18 watts of power and the E-1200 runs at 1.4GHz and the E2-1800 runs at 1.7GHz. The chips have 1MB of cache.

PC makers such as Acer, Asus, Hewlett-Packard, Sony, Toshiba, Lenovo and Samsung will launch systems with E-series chips.

Agam Shah covers PCs, tablets, servers, chips and semiconductors for IDG News Service. Follow Agam on Twitter at @agamsh. Agam's e-mail address is [email protected]


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